How to Fix iTunes "Original File Could Not Be Found" Error

What to do when iTunes says it can't find your music on Mac or PC

If you see an exclamation point next to a song in iTunes, you'll receive an error message if you try to play it. Learn how to fix the "original file could not be found" error in iTunes.

Instructions in this article apply to iTunes for Mac and Windows.

What Causes the iTunes "Original File Could Not Be Found" Error?

An exclamation point appears next to a song when iTunes doesn't know where to find the MP3 or AAC file for that song. This situation occurs because iTunes doesn't actually store your music in the program itself. Instead, iTunes is more like a directory for the music files stored on your hard drive. When you double-click a song, iTunes searches the place on your hard drive where it expects to find the file. However, if the music file isn't located where iTunes expects, the program can't play the song. The most common causes of the "original file could not be found" error in iTunes include:

How to Fix "Original File Could Not Be Found" Error

If iTunes is giving you the "original file could not be found" error, try these steps:

  1. Double-click the song with the exclamation point (!) next to it.

    Double-click the song with the exclamation point (!) next to it.
  2. Select Locate in the pop-up window.

    Select Locate in the pop-up window.
  3. Locate the missing song file and double-click it.

    Locate the missing song file and double-click it.
  4. Select Find Files in the pop-up window to automatically search for other missing music files.

    Select Find Files in the pop-up window to automatically search for other missing music files.
  5. Select OK in the pop-up window.

    Select OK in the pop-up window.
  6. Select the song in iTunes to play it. The exclamation point should be gone.

This method doesn't actually move the location of the music file. Instead, it updates where iTunes expects to find it.

Select the song in iTunes to play it.

 

How to Consolidate Your iTunes Library

If you've got exclamation marks next to a large number of songs, finding each one individually could take a long time. In this case, the problem can often be solved by consolidating your iTunes library. This feature of iTunes scans your hard drive for music files and then automatically moves them to the correct location in your iTunes Music folders.

To consolidate your music in iTunes:

  1. Open iTunes and select File > Library > Organize Library.

    Open iTunes and select File > Library > Organize Library.
  2. Check the box beside Consolidate files, then select OK.

    Check the box beside Consolidate files, then select OK.

At this point, iTunes scans your entire hard drive to find the files it's missing, makes copies of them, and moves those copies to the correct location in the iTunes Music folder.

This processes makes two copies of every song, taking up twice the disk space. If you don't want duplicates of songs, delete the old files from their original locations.

How to Consolidate iTunes on an External Hard Drive

If you run your entire iTunes library from an external hard drive, the link between the songs and iTunes can be lost from time to time, especially after the hard drive has been unplugged. To re-establish the link between iTunes and your library:

  1. Select iTunes (on Mac) or Edit (on Windows) and choose Preferences.

    Select iTunes (on Mac) or Edit (on Windows) and choose Preferences.
  2. Select the Advanced tab in the General Preferences window.

    Select the Advanced tab in the General Preferences window.
  3. Select Change under the iTunes Media folder location section.

    Select Change under the iTunes Media folder location section.
  4. Locate the iTunes Media folder in your external hard drive and double-click it.

    Locate the iTunes Media folder in your external hard drive and double-click it.
  5. Select OK in the General Preferences window.

    Select OK in the General Preferences window.

With that done, iTunes should know where to find your files, and you should be able to listen to your music again.

How to Prevent The iTunes "Original File Could Not Be Found" Error

To prevent the "original file could not be found" error from occurring in the future:

  1. Select iTunes (on Mac) or Edit (on Windows) and choose Preferences.

    Select iTunes (on Mac) or Edit (on Windows) and choose Preferences.
  2. Select the Advanced tab in the General Preferences window.

    Select the Advanced tab in the General Preferences window.
  3. Check the box beside Keep iTunes Media folder organized, the select OK.

    Check the box beside Keep iTunes Media folder organized, the select OK.

With this setting enabled, every time you add a new song to iTunes, it is automatically added to the correct place in your iTunes Music folder, no matter where the file was located previously. This method won't fix any song that currently has the "original file could not be found" error, but it should prevent it in the future.